7 Differences Between Shirring And Smocking

Shirring and smocking are two different things. People wanting to go ahead with sewing always get confused with both terms. Bearing that in mind, we have come up with our guide explaining the same.

Smocking is an embroidery technique to collect cloth or fabric and secure folded or finely pleated fabric using a decorative stitch.

Shirring collects fabric using several stitching rows, shrinking the material to a smaller size. By doing so, you can give elasticity to the cloth.

Here we have also explained various other differences between these two processes. You can read through them and proceed with the procedure of your choice.

Difference Between Shirring And Smocking


Both the terms are used interchangeably in the fashion industry, so people stepping into the field for the first time do not have a clear idea of what it means.

The application of these techniques can be found in summer dresses, blouses, etc., to make it fit in your body comfortably. They are the best options you have when you want to fold fabric arrangements and decorations.

Smocking adds an aesthetically pleasing look by altering the shape of the cloth. Shirring, on the other end, takes at least two rows to decorate the section of the fabric. The output will be highly flexible, eliminating the need to add zippers.

Smocking is not the same as shirring and uses pleating by a machine or hand with the help of embroidery stitches. The differences are:

1. In terms of Usage

Professionals can go ahead with any technique they want, depending on their outcome. Generally, smocking is preferred in cuffs, necklines, bodices where you cannot insert the buttons. But shirring is applicable for sleeves, yoke, and bodice. Thus, as per your needs, you can go ahead with the choice.

2. In terms of Looks And Flexibility

To get around tuck patterns offering a decorative look, you can go ahead with smocking. Shirring provides form-fitting and flexibility. By this, you must have understood what each of the techniques does.

Now you can decide which process to follow when. Shirring results in giving you round tucks, while smocking can create pleats.


3. Usage of Elastic Thread

There is no involvement of elastic thread in smocking, but it is used in machine shirring to inch aside from the bunching. So, which process you would like to do on your fabric. Accordingly, you can decide to use elastic thread or not.

While using the thread, make sure it is of high quality; otherwise, it will break. Sometimes, you may see after stitching, and the threads have started coming out. It is one of the reasons to avoid using low-quality threads.

4. Difference in adding patterns

By avoiding fiddling with alterations, shirring helps to add some shape to the pattern. However, smocking is to add in the pattern variably.

Both have different requirements, so you must understand what you need and opt for it.

5. Different Ways Of Collecting Fabric

You have to collect the fabric in different ways in smocking to get fine pleats. But shirring is collecting fabric from more than one row and in a particular pattern.

6. Difference in Reduction Of Garment Size

The length of the fabric gets reduced to one-third in shirring, while the tightness varies depending on the material. Smocking reduces the width of the original size based on the cloth.

Both of them give a unique look when you complete the entire procedure. To start with, the above differences will help you. The process is not at all tough, and you can easily do it on your own.

7. Difference in Material

Here, both the processes share a similarity as both shirring and smocking can be done in a lightweight fabric. To get a neat weave and fabrics, use fabrics like cotton and silk are the best.

If you use the method in a thick garment, the end product may not be as per your expectations. So, you must prefer using lightweight materials.

How To Carry Out Any Of The Processes?

Here is a brief explanation of steps required to carry out both the processes, which you can follow according to your needs.



First of all, determine the accurate length of the final product. After that, you must add seam allowances to every edge as per your needs. Now you have to plan a pattern of lines, so stitching becomes easy using the sewing machine.

Use elastic thread, and you can go ahead with zigzag and straight stitches. While you do, ensure to pull off the elastic stitch to provide enough tension. Cut the extra thread attached to the bobbin.

After you have adjusted the thread by offering sufficient tension and gather spaced equally, tie a knot. It will help in avoiding unraveling, and the process is over.


Use a pencil or a light marker to draw dots and a grid on the underside of the cloth that will dissolve when you wash. The dots or grids should be in one line and spaced out uniformly.

The distance between the spacing you wish to maintain completely depends on your preferences. A smaller spacing will give you integrated smocking, while larger spacing offers the opposite.

Depending on the template, start stitching the points using thread and needle. Make sure to use a similar color of thread to avoid looking inappropriate. After you have completed the entire procedure, secure the entire process by tying a knot at the end.

Cut in the end and read the procedure to complete the entire grid. With that, the smocking process will get over.

6 Things You Will Need For Shirring And Smocking

1. Lightweight Fabric

Make sure to start with a fabric that’s not thick, or else you stop in between. The product will not look good, and in most cases, you cannot even complete the task if the cloth is heavy.


2. Pencil Or Erasable Pen

Drawing grids will help you when you stitch as you can follow the pattern. Otherwise, you have to wait, think, which way to go, and it will waste your time. It gives a uniform look, which otherwise is difficult. Creating grids also reduces the time one takes to complete the process.

Some people use an erasable pen which gets deleted after a certain point. Whatever you have with, you can use. If you are an expert with the pattern, there is no need to draw any patterns, and you can start without it.

3. Ruler

This is an optional item that you may or may not require based on the pattern. Ruler is used to maintaining a straight line which will give you an even look.

4. Thread And Pin


Elastic thread is required for shirring, and it should be high-quality. Make sure you have different colors of threads to use accordingly. The elastic thread offers flexibility and can fit better.

Additionally, keep some pins with you if you need to pin wherever required. There is no need for stretching in smocking, so there is no need for an elastic thread.

5. Pattern Template

A pattern template helps in sketching the pattern on the underside of the cloth. After that, you can start stitching following the pattern, which gives you the outcome.

6. Sewing Machine

Smocking can be done both by hands or sewing machine. Using the machine, you can have a better fineness, and it looks like professionals have done it. That’s why before you start, make sure you have a sewing machine.

Both methods are great for decorating a piece of garment and are named the fabric manipulation techniques. It uses creative gathering to increase texture and volume.

Hopefully, with the difference, the process, and the things required, you are ready to go. This is all about the procedure of smocking embroidery, and you are free to use any types of stitches you need. Additionally, different ways are there through which both processes can be done.

To start with, you must pick the color of the thread that goes with the fabric. For more information, go ahead and check some YouTube videos, as you will get some more ideas.

What Are General Things One Must Know To Start With The Process?

To start with, knowing the basic definition of both methods is important. Remember, smocking is a decorative stitch, while shirring is a kind of stitching. Before you start, you can use a removable marker or chalk to mark the positions for symmetrical designs to do it precisely.

What Are The Necessary Things You Must Have For Smocking And Shirring Techniques?

The things you will require for smocking are fabric, chalk or removable pen, ruler, sewing machine, thread, etc. These are the basic things, and everyone who sews has all these with them.

As a result, there is no need to purchase the things again. Both shirring and smocking processes are easy to follow. Now that you know the difference, it would be easier for you.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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